The number of Scots suffering from an incurable lung disease has increased by more than a quarter since 2011, new figures reveal.
The amount of people living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) has risen to 139,187, a 26% increase over the last seven years, according to NHS Scotland.
To coincide with World COPD Day on November 20, charity Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland is urging the Scottish Government to back significant reform to the way people with lung conditions access rehabilitation and support.
The condition, which includes non-reversible asthma and diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, often leaves sufferers with shortness of breath and can prove fatal.
Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland argues that thousands of Scots are missing out on vital support such as pulmonary rehabilitation – treatment usually delivered by a physiotherapist combining exercise and education – and also warns that the NHS is missing out on significant savings as a consequence.
Estimating that its plan would save NHS Scotland almost £10m within two years, the charity wants the Government to commit to patients having the right to access pulmonary rehabilitation in Scotland, for everyone who suffers from COPD, in addition to improving long-term community support to help patients retain the benefits of treatment.
Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland chief executive Jane-Claire Judson said: “We need to see urgent reform to help people breathe better and really live life to the full with COPD.
“More and more people are living in poor health and struggling to cope with symptoms like breathlessness.
“Without proper support, everything can be difficult, from returning to work and enjoying time with family and friends. Even leaving the house can be a massive challenge.
“Access to pulmonary rehab and follow-up community support is life-changing. It can prevent hospital admissions and halve the time you spend in hospital, so it also saves the NHS money.
“However, access is patchy and we estimate that over 60,000 people could be missing out on pulmonary rehab.
“As a result, people with COPD are more likely to be admitted to hospital – particularly in the winter months when the colder weather leaves COPD sufferers more vulnerable.
“We need to see the Scottish Government’s Respiratory Care Plan really commit to bold reform that makes sure everyone who needs pulmonary rehab gets it quickly and that proper follow-up support is available in the community.”